Celebrating Mexican artists for Cinco de Mayo
Get to know Zuleyma Castrejon Salinas
Zuleyma Castrejon Salinas is a teaching artist living and practicing in the Queen City. She has experience teaching art at all life stages from child to senior adult. Her practice is very versatile and she likes to explore anything and everything from painting to jewelry making and everything in between.
Tell us a bit about your background
I was born in Huitzuco, Guerrero, Mexico to a young mother and father. I spent my first couple of years living there with my mother. My father made his way to the U.S when I was 1 year old to help provide for us, since we were scarce on money and resources.
My mom and I arrived in Monroe, North Carolina in August of 1996 shortly before my third birthday and my mom’s 18th birthday. We arrived to the United States at a time where resources for Spanish-speaking individuals were not as easily accessible as they are now. Mom and I did not speak any English and my dad was always working, so he did not teach us the little English that he already knew.
Early artistic roots
Because mom and I didn’t speak English, and mom didn’t know how to drive, we passed our time walking to the nearby Family Dollar. From a young age, Mom and dad always bought me coloring books, puzzles, crayons, watercolor paints, and notebook paper.
I eventually started kindergarten and the only things I knew how to say in English were, “Can I go to the bathroom?’ And “finger.” I learned English quickly after that and soon excelled in all of my studies. I was the first in my family to graduate both high school and college. I graduated summa cum laude from Johnson C. Smith University in May of 2016. At JCSU, I studied visual and performing arts with a concentration in studio art.
Observe. Bridge. Respond. Art (OBRA)
Early in college, I joined a Latinx-led art collective called OBRA collective. We are an art collective made up of Latinx and ally artists that create art that celebrates our heritage and raises awareness about issues that the immigrant community faces.
As an art collective, we:
• Lead community workshops
• Plan and execute art exhibitions
• Collaborate with different partners, including the city of Charlotte
• Listen and respond to the needs of our community
OBRA collective tapestry mural
This is one of our largest projects. We partnered with the city of Charlotte and the community of East charlotte to design and create a mural that was representative of the people of East charlotte. You can see the mural at the intersection of Monroe and Idlewild roads. The people of East Charlotte come from many parts of the world. These countries were represented through their fauna, flora, and traditional textile patterns.
My art is very reflective of my Mexican culture and heritage through its imagery and bright, bold colors. Most of my art is highly influenced and inspired by my experience as a Mexican woman.
These two photographic series were both inspired by my parents. I am forever grateful for all of their sacrifices because I wouldn’t be where I am without them.
Celebrando Artistas Mexicanos Por El 5 de Mayo
Llegar a saber Zuleyma Castrejon Salinas
Soy un artista docente que vive y ejerce en la Cuidad Reina. Tengo experiencia enseñando arte en todas las etapas de la vida, desde niño hasta adulto mayor. Mi práctica es muy versátil y me gusta explorar cualquier cosa, desde la pintura hasta la fabricación de joyas y todo lo demás.
¿DE DONDE SOY?
Nací en Huitzuco, Guerrero, México a unos padres jóvenes. Pasé mis primeros años viviendo allí con mi madre. Mi padre se dirigió a los EE. UU. Cuando yo tenía 1 año para ayudar a mantenernos, ya que éramos escasos de dinero y recursos.
Mi mamá y yo llegamos a Monroe, Carolina del Norte en agosto de 1996, poco antes de mi tercer cumpleaños y poco antes de que mi mamá cumpliera 18. Llegamos a los EE. UU. en un momento en el que los recursos para las personas de habla hispana no eran tan accesibles como ahora. Mamá y yo no hablábamos nada de inglés y mi papá siempre estaba trabajando, así que no nos enseñó el poco inglés que el ya sabía.
Primeras raíces artísticas
Debido a que mamá y yo no hablamos inglés y mamá no sabía conducir, pasamos nuestro tiempo caminando hacia el family dollar cercano. Desde temprana edad, mamá y papá siempre me compraron libros para colorear, rompecabezas, crayones, pinturas de acuarela y papel para cuadernos.
Finalmente comencé el kinder y las únicas cosas que sabía decir en inglés eran: “¿Puedo ir al baño?” y “dedo”. Aprendí inglés rápidamente después de eso y pronto sobresalí en todos mis estudios. Fui la primera en mi familia en graduarme tanto de la escuela secundaria como de la universidad. Me gradué Summa Cum Laude de la Universidad Johnson C. Smith en Mayo de 2016. En JCSU estudié artes visuales y escénicas con una concentración en artes plásticas.
Observe. Bridge. Respond. Art (OBRA)
Temprano en la universidad me uni a una colectiva de arte latinx llamada obra colectiva. Somos una colectiva de arte hecha de artistas latinx y aliados que crean arte que celebra nuestra herencia y que sensibiliza los temas que enfrenta la comunidad inmigrante.
COMO COLECTIVA NOSOTROS:
• OFRECEMOS TALLERES COMUNITARIOS
• PLANIFICAMOS Y EJECUTAMOS EXPOSICIONES DE ARTE
• COLABORAMOS CON DIFERENTES SOCIOS, INCLUYENDO LA CIUDAD DE CHARLOTTE
• ESCUCHAMOS Y RESPONDEMOS A LAS NECESIDADES DE NUESTRA COMUNIDAD
Este es uno de nuestros mayores proyectos. Nos asociamos con la ciudad de charlotte y la comunidad de east charlotte para diseñar y crear un mural representante de la comunidad de east Charlotte. Puedes ver el mural en la interseccion de Monroe Road Y Idlewild Road.
La gente de east charlotte proviene de muchas partes del mundo. Estos países estuvieron representados a través de su fauna, flora y patrones de textiles tradicionales.
Mi arte refleja mucho mi cultura y herencia mexicana a través de sus imágenes y colores brillantes y atrevidos. La mayor parte de mi arte está muy influenciado e inspirado por mi experiencia como mujer mexicana.
Estas 2 series fotográficas fueron inspiradas por mis padres. Siempre estaré agradecida por todos sus sacrificios porque no estaría donde estoy sin ellos.
One year after Covid-19 shutdowns began, Silent Streets: Art in the Time of Pandemic reflects how it shaped a societal shift
By Liz Rothaus Bertrand
When the world came to a halt in early spring 2020, so did museums everywhere. Doors closed, shipments stopped, planned exhibitions were put on hold. Then cities across the nation erupted in protest, as communities faced a reckoning with long-term injustices and systemic racism. The concurrent events posed a challenge: How could the Mint best serve the community through the crisis and uprising, while also facing financial uncertainty and logistical challenges caused by the pandemic?
“This gave us [an] opportunity,” says Jen Sudul Edwards, PhD, the Mint’s chief curator and curator of contemporary art. “Instead of showing an exhibition that seemed incongruous with the times, we were able to construct something that reflected the times.”
Silent Streets: Art in the Time of Pandemic opened April 21 at Mint Museum Uptown. The Mint commissioned new works by three North Carolina artists—Amy Bagwell, Antoine Williams, and Stacy Lynn Waddell. Their task: create works of art that respond to something that has happened since the pandemic began and reflects some change in their practice.
CAPTURING A MOMENT WE’RE STILL EXPERIENCING
As poet and mixed-media artist Amy Bagwell reflects on the past year, she lands on one overriding sensation: dissonance. Bagwell, who also teaches English at Central Piedmont Community College, watched her students grapple with both the dire consequences of COVID-19 and racial injustice. And yet she also heard people deny the virus’s existence and claim the protests were unjustified.
“That dissonance is terrifying,” Bagwell says. “Absurd in a painful way.”
Poetry she wrote during the Covid-19 pandemic inspired the three large-scale collages she created for Silent Streets. “As artists we’re trying to document this moment of multiple vexations,” Bagwell says, “but it will be an interim document because we’ll be going through this during and after the show. We don’t yet have the benefit of distance.”
CONFRONTING SYSTEMIC RACISM
Greensboro-based artist Antoine Williams says 2020 was shaping up to be a great year—but ended up being one of the worst. The pandemic upended his personal and professional lives while exposing, once again, systemic racism across the nation.
An assistant professor of art at Guilford College, Williams says his work is influenced by critical race theory. For Silent Streets, his mixed-media work looks at the uprisings and their meaning. He explores the objectification of Black labor and culture, and the absurdity of public shock when Black people speak up against injustice.
Creating during this challenging time has been cathartic, Williams says. “It’s a way of me shouting at the universe … or to feel like I’m contributing to this conversation.”
RECLAIMING SYMBOLS OF POWER
Artist Stacy Lynn Waddell of Durham often takes tools and uses them in new ways, redefining how we communicate. She has used branding irons on paper and acid to paint, among other experimental techniques.
For Silent Streets, Waddell explores themes like representation and inclusion in symbols of power. Working alongside a master quilter, she used homemade textiles to create flags. By using a technique from a domestic realm and bringing it to a public sphere, she envisioned a way to reclaim symbols such as flags that are often weaponized, and explored how they could be redesigned to be more inclusive.
“I think we’ll look back on this years later [and say] ‘This was an opportunity, even in all the bleak, difficult, sad lolling out of all of it,” Waddell says. “It’s still been an opportunity.”
OTHER PANDEMIC-BORN PERSPECTIVES
These three commissions form the core of the exhibition, but Silent Streets also features a wide spectrum of artists’ works during the pandemic. The exhibition also includes photo highlights from Diary of a Pandemic, a collaboration between Magnum Photos and National Geographic that features images taken by stranded photojournalists around the world in 2020.
In the Pandemic Comics part of the exhibition, the focus is on how syndicated comic strips such as “Pearls Before Swine,” “Liō,” and “Tank McNamara” changed course suddenly as COVID-19 upended our lives. Silent Streets will also features As the Boundary Pulls Us Apart, a video and soundscape projection created by Charlotte artists Matt Steele and Ben Geller.
Liz Rothaus Bertrand is a Charlotte-based freelance writer who has a love of the arts in all its forms.
This story was originally published in the January, 2021 issue of Inspired, the Mint’s biannual member magazine.
“Lost Soul Found Spirits” by Robert Ebendorf – Curators’ Pick
Rebecca Elliot, assistant curator or craft, design, and fashion, shows us a necklace constructed of crab claws by Robert Ebendorf on view at Mint Museum Uptown.
Robert Ebendorf created his “Lost Souls Found Spirits” series of necklaces during a period of introspection and recovery while going through a divorce. He collected the crab claws during walks on the beach; on other pieces in the series, he incorporated found squirrel paws and bird heads. Ebendorf often uses found objects on his jewelry, an act he describes as making order out of chaos. However, the materials of “Lost Souls Found Spirits” are especially startling: claws, nails, and beaks, once lacerating, then dead, now live on as jewelry.
“The Poetry of Science” by Carlos Estévez – Curators’ Pick
Cuban artist Carlos Estévez uses his art to explore the relationship between the natural world and the one made by human ingenuity. Jen Sudul Edwards, PhD, chief curator and curator of contemporary art at the Mint, gives a close look at this newly accuisitioned work of art in the Mint’s permanent collection. On view at Mint Museum Uptown.
Gallery Chat with Curator and Community, Part 1
Jon Stulhman,PhD, senior curator for american, modern, and contemporary art, and Rubie R. Britt-Height, director of community relations at the Mint, look at two pieces of contemporary art in the museum’s collection. This video is a part of new video series that examines and compares works of art currently installed in the Mint’s Contemporary Gallery at Mint Museum Uptown.
Through the Lens
New photography installations tell the stories of people and places, past and present
By Jen Sudul Edwards, PhD, Chief Curator & Curator of Contemporary Art
Over the last year, the Mint has been exposing its members to more photography, both in the galleries and online. On March 22, 2020—as it happened, one day before the museum closed to the public due to Covid-19—the Mint installed a mid-career survey of Charlotte photographer Linda Foard Roberts only a few weeks before she was awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship. Extended through December 2021, the exhibition Responsibilities in Representing explores eight series from Foard Roberts’s career, each showcasing a different relationship between an image maker and her subject. Some are loved ones—friends after cancer diagnoses, her children as they grew into their own—captured at pivotal moments when they found steel in their fragile mortality. Some are invisible traces, as in her most recent series Lament, a song of sorrow for those not heard, which explores Southern spaces that both marked racial divisions and allowed for liberation of the enslaved. When she photographs the natural world—mist on a lake, an aged oak—the results embody the human history of those spaces, allowing viewers to transcend the limitations of the physical world.
Although her images have an ethereal quality, due in part to the large-format camera and cracked 19th-century lenses that Foard Roberts often uses, they are also sober reminders of the cycle of life and continuous history in which we all live. These dynamics are so vivid in the work because Foard Roberts feels them herself. In her book Passages, Foard Roberts writes, “Southern landscapes are inherently scarred and stained by an oppressive past. It is difficult to reflect on Southern land without the shadow of sadness from our history; and I can’t escape that my roots are dusted with these injustices. This work is driven by a longing to connect with this land and for a miraculous healing from its past.”
Work from Foard Roberts Lament series is also included in the W|ALLS: Defend, Divide, and the Divine exhibition that is on view at Mint Museum Uptown. W|ALLS was originally scheduled to open in May 2020 but was postponed due to the pandemic. Shipping crates containing much of the show were delayed, and the Annenberg Space for Photography— the originator of the show—was forced to permanently close its doors after 10 years of visionary shows, and gifted the exhibition prints to the Mint. Through more than 130 photos by 67 photographers across the globe, W|ALLS explores various aspects of barriers whether they are made of stone, steel, sand, or wire. The exhibition will be divided into six sections—Delineation, Defense, Deterrent, The Divine, Decoration, and The Invisible—with each section anchored by a central photo essay.
In addition to these two photography shows on view in the galleries, the Mint’s first online exhibition: Expanding the Pantheon: Women R Beautiful launched on the Mint’s website in November 2020. It presents 26 portraits by Ruben Natal-San Miguel, whose Mama became an audience favorite when it joined the collection in 2018. Natal-San Miguel photographs subjects not historically seen on museum walls, and his new series continues that project, presenting feminine beauty in a myriad of shades—literally and symbolically. In addition to Mama, two other online images—Mary C. Curtis (Journalist) and Three Muslim Women—can be seen in the Contemporary Galleries. They were donated to the museum last year thanks to the generosity of Dana Martin Davis (who also donated Mama) and Natal-San Miguel.
As art historian Coco Fusco observes in the book Only Skin Deep: Changing Visions of the American Self, “The photographic image plays a central role in American culture.” We have seen this most prominently in the press, advertising, and social media, and we will continue to examine its effects through our photography exhibitions at the Mint. Look for an increased presence of photography online and in the galleries in the coming years.
This story was originally published in the January, 2021 issue of Inspired, the Mint’s biannual member magazine.
Stephen Compton: From Jugtown Pottery to hyalyn Porcelain: A Collector’s Journey
Delhom Service League Studio Visit
Steve Compton discusses his history as a collector of NC pottery, and how his interest led him to become a noted researcher and author. Steve shares details about his collection of pottery, now including over 2,000 pieces, and some of the many books he has authored.
Black Stacked Circles by Ibrahim Said – Curators’ Pick
Annie Carlano, Curator of Craft, Design, & Fashion, shares one of her favorite works in The Mint Museum’s Collection. Black Stacked Circles by Ibrahim Said is an intricately carved ceramic sculpture on view at Mint Museum Uptown.
Just part of the story: A chat with Constellation CLT artist de’Angelo Dia
By Rubie R. Britt-Height, Director of Community Relations at The Mint Museum
In September 2008, after 20 years away from Charlotte, I was drawn back to the Queen City and its art scene by what felt like a magnetic force and wide-open door. I was coming from the prestigious Virginia Museum of Fine Arts as its community affairs director. I had worked with numerous amazing statewide artists, yet the springing up of talented Charlotte artists was nothing I had experienced. Charlotte and the Carolinas were rich with young, creative, thoughtful minds, and The Mint Museum was where I saw myself. At that time, it was showcasing a Charlotte-born, renowned artist whose work I loved—Romare Bearden. At the same time, the Mint was presenting an exhibition called A Contemporary Look at the Black Male Image. Two wows! I was impressed.
As I settled in the City once again, in summer of 2009, I was invited by God City artist-educator John R. Hairston, Jr. to the opening night of a NoDa art show that he and artist de’Angelo Dia had put together to debut their latest works. The atmosphere, the creative works, and the vibe of North Davidson were soulful, and light. I knew Hairston as this hip surrealist artist, and he introduced me to Dia. We chatted, he showed me his work, and we discussed his artistic views, society, and what he envisioned. It was a great show.
After that, I engaged the God City art collective members, including Dia, to engage with the Mint’s Grier Heights Community Youth Arts Program as enlightened artist-educators that our students could engage with, and who were young, cool, and looked like them. God City connected with the students like a magnet, and Dia’s sessions brought out the best in the students’ abilities to be critical thinkers. They talked about current events, what they would do if they were the mayor, and how they could change their community by changing how they viewed themselves and “Griertown.” He was a newer member of the God City, and art, education, and social activism seemed his platform too, especially with young minds.
As an instructor at Trinity Episcopal School and through the Mint’s Grier Heights art program, Dia challenged his students and they enjoyed his teaching style and socially-conscious poetry. I also invited Dia to the Mint to present on his service projects, where youth were introduced to the concept of being more spiritual, with introspection, and of giving back to the community, and learning to delve deeper within to discover their own style and individuality.
Over a short time, Dia branched into several modes of art exploration, including photography, poetry, creative writing, oral presentations, and painting. Interestingly, he also was drawn into religious studies and received a Master of Divinity degree. He intertwined his growth as a young radical artist and theologian with his desire to be a social activist through his works of art and his engagement with youth in the Black church. He currently serves as the minister of social justice at St. Paul Baptist Church in Charlotte where he is known as Reverend de’Angelo Dia.
Dia’s Constellation CLT installation is on view at Mint Museum Uptown through March 7. I had a chance to recently chat with Dia and see where he was with creating this body of work on exhibition at Mint Museum Uptown, his art projects, his religion, his thinking, and his latest vibe.
RBH: What was your inspiration in creating these works featured in Constellation CLT?
Dia: Works featured in Constellation CLT are part of an on-going passion project. At this point, I have created 70 large-scale pastel drawings exploring representation and the celebration of creating cultures within a culture. The works of Maurice Sendak and Shel Silverstein inspired this collection. The book Where the Wild Things Are was the Holy Grail for me as a kid, however, I couldn’t identify with the main character Max, so I decided to place my cultural embodiment into Max and the Wild Things and create a pantheon of original characters. Each drawing was created at Goodyear Arts while listening to the works of assorted jazz artists (Thelonious Monk, John Coltrane, Ghost Tree). Each drawing has a poem reflective of what I was theologically and culturally processing at the time.
RBH: In relation to your installation and viewing today’s America amid a divide, at what phase do you see African American art and culture as social commentary/activism?
Dia: African American art and culture has always been a mirror to America, exposing its hypocrisy and systemic oppression. The work of AfriCOBRA, Emory Douglas, Elizabeth Catlett, Gordon Parks and so many others exemplify this. However, I want to be clear, African American art and culture are not a monolith. Through this body of work, I am attempting to balance the tension of processing our daily reality of being Black in America, to highlight our resilience and tenacity, and to celebrate our inherent ability to thrive amidst a divisive social and political climate. The childlike elements of these drawings are my attempt to reclaim my own sense of Black Boy Joy with the understanding that joy is an act of resistance. These drawings are reminiscent of my drawing style in the second and third grade before any teacher attempted to socialize a “standard of quality art,” which often hinders the creative spirit.
RBH: Art is a catalyst for change. How do you view that perspective, and how can artists and art today bring about positive change in America?
Dia: Again, this goes back to representation for me. Representation in creatives, and creations and experiences inspire and ignite social movements that supersede any of my academic training.
RBH: Does poetry and theology impact your approach to your visual works of art? If so, in what way?
Dia: Absolutely. Poetry and visual art coexist as theological outlets for me. Every drawing is preceded with a writing prompt intended to help me gain a better understanding of self, others, the communities I navigate and negotiate with. Writing is my primary outlet and my area of academic training, and yet I cannot separate the literary from the visual. This body of work was always intended for me. They are my mind maps, holistic outlet, visual journals. For example, Epiphany, which is on display in this collection, was my template for a poem titled shallow words. With deep investigation, the viewer can find the words “what if I was your child” throughout the drawing. This is in reference to the biblical children of Israel, Isaac, one of the three patriarchs of the Israelites, and in a contemporary context every Black and Brown child of God killed as a result of power and authority. “What if” is also a reference to a Marvel comics anthology series of alternate reality stories titled What If?
RBH: You noted being a comic book scholar? What does that entail and how did you arrive there?
Dia: I earned a master’s in literature from UNC Charlotte. My thesis project was “Black Images in Comics: An examination of what does 200 years of cartoon images depicting Black people tell us about ourselves.” The images displayed for Constellation CLT are a continuation of this study. While the comics scholar in me values and appreciates the impressive archeology of images that present Black history, this work is a visceral reminder of the barrage of racist depictions intentionally created to oppress us. Currently, I am working on my doctorate with a proposed dissertation topic of theopoetics, an interdisciplinary field of study that combines elements of poetics, narrative theology, and postmodern philosophy. My comic passion was sparked by Milestone Media, a comic company created by three Black men with the intent to provide a diverse spectrum of representation in comics. Comics have always been one of the mediums intended for theological analysis (i.e. God is Disappointed in You, 2013, Mark Russell and Shannon Wheeler).
RBH: With thoughts of the fantastical and your love for comic books, who are your most celebrated superheroes/sheroes? If you could create one, what attributes would he/she possess?
Dia: I love this question and it is a tough question because there are so many amazing characters to select from. Shaft (Richard Roundtree) was my gateway to superheroes. His Blackness was and is his superpower. I recommend Shaft written by David F. Walker (Dynamite Entertainment). Luke Cage (written and drawn by Genndy Tartakovsky) and Misty Knight (Marvel Knights), who deserves her own comic series, are two street-level characters presenting a slice of Black life that is relatable. Two series I recommend are Excellence and Bitter Root both produced by Image Comics, written and drawn by creatives of color. If there was a comic character I would love to write about, it would be Doctor Voodoo (Marvel Comics with art created by artist Wolly McNair and Marcus Kiser, inked by Reco Renzi. This would be a dream project. If I could create a character, the attributes would be resilience, tenacity, creativity, and the superpower would be superspeed. Often, there is never enough time in a day to accomplish all I desire to do.
RBH: Which world or American leaders and artists have most impacted your life and works of art?
• Poet, professor, Jericho Brown (The Tradition) for his narrative transparency.
• Poet, professor, Gary Jackson (Missing You, Metropolis) for his beautiful work that is a hybrid of introspection and comic mythology.
• Poet, educator, and should be the Poet Laureate of Wakanda, Nikki Giovanni for the diversity and scope of her work.
• Artist Brain Stelfreeze for his incredible art and more than that, his compassion and willingness to take time to talk with emerging artists.
• TJ Reddy (August 1945-March 2019) for constantly reminding me that creativity and sleep are acts of defiance.
• My parents, Betty and Charlie Jessup, for providing me with creative outlets for artistic expression, introducing me to the music of Parliament Funkadelic, and affirming Black Boy Joy.
• Growing up I thought Shel Silverstein was Black, so I am going to give him honorable mention.
RBH: What is your preferred art medium and why?
Dia: I love drawing, it is a basic instinct. I have a passion for photography, and it is perhaps the best medium to consistently document our collective narratives. However, writing is in my primal nature. I will always find comfort with writing. It was the first artistic outlet that made me feel at home.
RBH: How do you hope your works of art will impact the viewer?
Dia: I hope viewers see them as a reflection of childhood, joy, and solidarity.
RBH: What’s next for you with respect to art projects, works, inspirations?
Dia: I had work recently published in the anthology 2020: The Year that Changed America edited by Kevin Powell. I am currently working on a chapbook that will be part of my doctoral dissertation, which will include poetry and drawings. I am contributing to a performance titled Codex with performance arts members of the Goodyear Arts Collective. I am also working on a performance inspired by the life and music of Marvin Gaye. This is a collaboration with sound artist Dylan Gilbert.
Get to know artist Gisela Colón
Artist Gisela Colón joins Jen Sudul Edwards, PhD, Chief Curator and Curator of Contemporary Art at the Mint, for a discussion on her evolution as an artist, her transition from her home island of Puerto Rico to her adopted home of Los Angeles, and her mesmerizing techniques and unique art projects. Colón’s work was on view in the Mint’s recent exhibition In Vivid Color.
The discussion concludes with a Q&A segment where Colón answers questions previously submitted by the Mint audience.